Thomas Jefferson Papers

Address from the Philadelphia Ward Committees, before 17 July 1803

Address from the Philadelphia Ward Committees

[before 17 July 1803]


In addressing you on a subject, highly interesting to the Citizens of Pennsylvania, and particularly to that portion of them which we immediately represent, we feel it incumbent on us to declare, that our confidence in you, testified on so many occasions has never abated.—

But when our opinions have been misrepresented; when the great body of the Republicans of Pennsylvania have been outrageously called “an interested minority” we have deemed it our duty to make our real sentiments known with that respectful deference due to the first magistrate of a free people.—

On the subject of removal from office the opinion of Pennsylvania has long been well known; the unanimous applause and confidence which have followed the measure of our State Executive, the conversion of his Libellers into eulogists, the result of every election in this State since his elevation to the Governmental chair; and particularly the late general Congressional election, speak a language too explicit to be mistaken; too solemn to be opposed by any private, partial, or insidious allegations.

The same intolerant spirit governs the federal officers in this section of the union, which has ever been characteristick of their party; their official influence is exerted to excite prejudices against the administration; their official expenditures to purchase proselytes to their cause. It is a fact deeply affecting that in Philadelphia, publick employment under the federal administration in all its grades, with scarcely an exception, is confined not to federalists merely but to Apostates, persecutors, and enemies of Representative Government.—

We believe we express the sentiments of the people of Pennsylvania, we know we speak those of our immediate constituents, and we have thought it proper to communicate them to you directly. Knowing that you act from the purest views, feeling the happy result of your wise administration, we wish not our prospects of progressive prosperity to be over clouded by a policy which may tend to paralize the efforts of the Friends of the administration.—

Three years have nearly passed away in unexampled efforts of conciliation, and we have witnessed as the consequence, increased audacity and the circulation of the most unfounded slanders and misrepresentations of the government, and those who administer it, while not a few who disseminate discontent are fostered by a too indulgent administration.—

We look, Sir, to an election fast approaching when our whole strength must of necessity be exerted. Our opponents have already commenced their operations, and are maturing their plans of hostility and intrigue. It behoves us therefore not to stand indifferent spectators. We pledge ourselves to be calm, firm, and collected, and we look up to you, Sir, for that aid which a good cause requires, to enable us to resist the combination of Mercantile & Banking influence, which cooperating with that of men in office, menaces us with an opposition which tho’ formidable, is not such as to dismay if we continue united & receive that support from the General Government which it is in their power to afford, & which the people confidently hope for and expect.—

We address you, Sir, with the Independence & unreserve of Freemen, under a sincere conviction of the necessity of making you acquainted with the truth, believing, that a continuance of the power to do good must depend much on the removal from office of men, who abuse the power entrusted to them & pursue their incurable propensity to do mischief, assuring you at the same time of our belief that there would be no occasion for this procedure, if you had been faithfully and correctly informed of the sentiments of the people of Pennsylvania.—

We are with the truth and sincerity of Freemen your most affectionate friends & Fellow Citizens.—

Geo Bartram Secretary

& a Representative from Walnut Ward.

Lewis Rush } Uper Delaware Ward
Caspar Rehn
Andrew Geyer Junior
John Butler } Lower Delaware Ward
Robert Cochran
Thomas T. Peters
John Willis } High Street Ward
Sallows Shewell
Joel Gibbs
Thos. Armstrong } Chesnut Ward
Wm Duane
Js. McGlathery
James Ker } Walnut Ward
Liberty Browne
Thos. Wright } Dock Ward
John Purdon
Samuel Carver. } Newmarket Ward
James Carson
John Douglass
John M Smith } North-Mulberry Ward
Jacob Mynick
Daniel Clawges
John Barker } South Mulberry Ward
Lambert Smyth
Adam Henchman } north Ward
Thos. Bradley
John Meer
John L. Leib } Middle Ward
Peter Gravenstine
James Girvan
Joseph Scott } South Ward
Anthy Crothers
Peter Bob
Abm. Shoemaker } Locust Ward
Jacob Mansfield
Thomas Tomkins } Cedar Ward
Philip Mason
Wm. Stevenson Senr

RC (DLC); undated; in George Bartram’s hand, signed by all; at head of text: “The Ward Committees of Philadelphia in General Committee assembled” and “To Thomas Jefferson President of the United States”; endorsed by TJ as received 17 July and so recorded in SJL.

TJ received this address reluctantly. He wrote Gallatin on 28 Mch.: “I hope those of Philadelphia will not address on the subject of removals. it would be a delicate operation indeed.” Several of the signers above were leaders in the city government. George Bartram, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and a militia leader, was a member of the Philadelphia Select Council and in 1809 became its president. John L. Leib was clerk of the council. Caspar Rehn, Sallows Shewell, Robert Cochran, James McGlathery, John Purdon, Abraham Shoemaker, and Thomas Tomkins served a term or more on the city’s common council between 1802 and 1805, with Joseph Scott as the clerk for several years; John Barker and John Douglass served as aldermen; James Ker as a city, and Samuel Carver and Thomas Bradley as the county, commissioner. In 1803, Barker was elected sheriff of Philadelphia, and in 1808 he became mayor. The signers were appointed at ward meetings to become part of the general committee to draw up the address to the president. For instance, Bartram, on 4 Apr., chaired the meeting of “democratic citizens” of Walnut Ward held at the house of James Ker. The meeting appointed Bartram, Ker, and Liberty Browne to the general committee to write the address (James Robinson, The Philadelphia Directory, City and County Register, for 1802 [Philadelphia, 1802], [6]; Robinson, The Philadelphia Directory, City and County Register, for 1803 [Philadelphia, 1803], Appendix, i; Robinson, The Philadelphia Directory for 1804 [Philadelphia, 1804], 290; Robinson, The Philadelphia Directory for 1805 [Philadelphia, 1805], liii; PMHB description begins Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 1877- description ends , 49 [1925], 91-2; 50 [1926], 86-7; Thomas Scharf and Thompson Westcott, History of Philadelphia: 1609-1884, 3 vols. [Philadelphia, 1884], 3:1708; Aurora, 12 Mch., 5 Apr., 13 Aug., 9, 30 Sep. 1803; Philadelphia Repository, and Weekly Register, 22 Oct. 1803). For an account of the ward meetings, see Gallatin to TJ, 21 Mch. William Duane publicized the ward meetings as they were held in the spring of 1803, but the address to the president did not appear in the Aurora at the time (Sanford W. Higginbotham, The Keystone in the Democratic Arch: Pennsylvania Politics 1800-1816 [Harrisburg, 1952], 59).

interested minority: the ward meetings passed a resolution expressing concern that some Republicans were misleading the president by noting that calls for the removal of Federalist officeholders in Philadelphia were “confined to a small minority of our fellow citizens, and more particularly to interested individuals.” They were quoting from the draft of a letter that William Jones and other Pennsylvania congressmen had planned to send the president, assuring him of their undiminished confidence in his appointment policies (Aurora, 11, 17, 31 Mch., 2 Apr. 1803, 6 Aug. 1805).

Thomas McKean, the state executive, was noted for his aggressive removal of Federalists when he took office (Vol. 38:636, 639n; Vol. 39:77; Vol. 40:500). As a result of the late general congressional election, Pennsylvania’s entire delegation to the Eighth Congress was republican, 18 Representatives and 2 senators (Vol. 39:471-2).

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